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Quotations: Character


But rules cannot substitute for character.
Alan Greenspan, chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve Board (b. 1926)

Of all the properties which belong to honorable men, not one is so highly prized as that of character.
Henry Clay, statesman, orator, politician (1777-1852)

Character is what you are in the dark.
Unknown

Another man's soul is darkness.
Russian proverb

Most people say that it is the intellect which makes a great scientist. They are wrong: it is character.
Albert Einstein, Swiss-American mathematician, physicist and public philosopher (1879-1955)

Character, in the long run, is the decisive factor in the life of an individual and of nations alike.
Theodore Roosevelt, American adventurer and 26th president (1858-1919)

What lies behind us and what lies before us are small matters compared to what lies within us.
Ralph Waldo Emerson, American essayist, philosopher and poet (1803-1882)

If you will think about what you ought to do for other people, your character will take care of itself. Character is a by-product, and any man who devotes himself to its cultivation in his own case will become a selfish prig.
Woodrow Wilson, 28th American president (1856-1924)

We are what we seem to be.
Willard Gaylin, American psychiatrist (b. 1925)

Our lives teach us who we are.
Salman Rushdie, Anglo-Indian novelist (b. 1947)

If you don’t have enemies, you don’t have character.
Paul Newman, American actor (b. 1925)

To exercise good character daily is to be morally fit for life.
Karen Hartz, CC! coordinator, CHARACTER COUNTS! in Caroline County

What someone is, begins to be revealed when his talent abates, when he stops showing us what he can do.
Friedrich Nietzsche, German philosopher (1844-1900)

Why are we surprised when fig trees bear figs?
Margaret Titzel

Character is like a tree and reputation like its shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.
Abraham Lincoln, 16th U.S. president (1809-1865)

Many a man's reputation would not know his character if they met on the street.
Elbert Hubbard, 19th/20th-century American entrepreneur and philosopher (founder of Roycroft)

You can tell a lot about a fellow’s character by his way of eating jelly beans.
Ronald Reagan, 40th U.S. president (b. 1911)

A person’s character is what it is. It’s a little like a marriage – only without the option of divorce. You can work on it and try to make it better, but basically you have to take the bitter with the sweet.
Henrik Hertzberg, 20th-century American editor and journalist

What a man’s mind can create, man’s character can control.
Attributed to Thomas Edison, American inventor (1847-1931)

The true test of civilization is not the census, nor the size of cities, nor the crops – no, but the kind of man the country turns out.
Ralph Waldo Emerson, American essayist, philosopher and poet (1803-1882)

Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired, and success achieved.
Helen Keller, American social activist, public speaker and author (1880-1968)

The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically... Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education.
Martin Luther King Jr., American civil rights leader (1929-1968)

The best index to a person’s character is (a) how he treats people who can’t do him any good, and (b) how he treats people who can’t fight back.
Abigail van Buren (Pauline Esther Friedman), American newspaper advice columnist (1918-2002)

Character is that which reveals moral purpose, exposing the class of things a man chooses and avoids.
Aristotle, Greek philosopher (384-322 B.C.)

Character is an essential tendency. It can be covered up, it can be messed with, it can be screwed around with, but it can’t be ultimately changed. It’s the structure of our bones, the blood that runs through our veins.
Sam Shepard, American playwright, actor and director (b. 1943)

The measure of a man's character is what he would do if he knew he never would be found out.
Baron Thomas Babington Macauley, English historian and statesman (1800-1859)

Fame is a vapor, popularity an accident, riches take wing, and only character endures.
Horace Greeley, American journalist and educator (1811-1872)

The proper time to influence the character of a child is about a hundred years before he’s born.
William R. Inge, American playwright (1913-1973)

If we want our children to possess the traits of character we most admire, we need to teach them what those traits are and why they deserve both admiration and allegiance. Children must learn to identify the forms and content of those traits.
William J. Bennett, author and former U.S. Secretary of Education (b. 1943)

The formation of character in young people is educationally a different task from and a prior task to, the discussion of the great, difficult ethical controversies of the day.
William J. Bennett, author and former U.S. Secretary of Education (b. 1943)

Conviction is worthless unless it is converted into conduct.
Thomas Carlyle, Scottish historian and author (1795-1881)

Character is much easier kept than recovered.
Thomas Paine, British-born American political activist (1737-1809)

Every man has three characters: that which he shows, that which he has, and that which he thinks he has.
Alphonse Karr, French journalist (1808-1890)

All paths lead to the same goal: to convey to others what we are.
Pablo Neruda, Chilean poet, diplomat and political activist (1904-1973)

A man's character is his fate.
Heraclitus, Greek philosopher (c. 540-c. 475 B.C.)

Character is simply habit long continued.
Plutarch, Greek biographer (47-120 A.D.)

One can acquire everything in solitude — except character.
Henri Stendahl, French novelist (1783-1842)

Character is that which can do without success.
Ralph Waldo Emerson, American essayist, philosopher and poet (1803-1882)

No change of circumstances can repair a defect of character.
Ralph Waldo Emerson, American essayist, philosopher and poet (1803-1880)

The force of character is cumulative.
Ralph Waldo Emerson, American essayist, philosopher and poet (1803-1882)

Not in time, place or circumstance but in the man lies success.
James Joyce, Irish novelist (1882-1941)

It is with trifles, and when he is off guard, that a man best reveals his character.
Arthur Schopenhauer, German philosopher (1788-1860)

If a man has any greatness in him, it comes to light, not in one flamboyant hour, but in the ledger of his daily work.
Beryl Markham, English adventurer and author (1902-1986)

You can easily judge the character of a man by how he treats those who can do nothing for him.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, German poet, novelist, playwright, scientist and philosopher (1749-1832)

Americanism is a question of principles, of idealism, of character: it is not a matter of birthplace or creed or line of descent.
Theodore Roosevelt, adventurer, politician and Nobel Prize-winning 26th U.S. president (1858-1919)

When your intelligence don't tell you something ain't right, your conscience gives you a tap you on the shoulder and says ‘Hold on’. If it don't, you're a snake.
Elvis Presley, American rock 'n' roll icon (1935-1977)

To arrive at a just estimate of a renowned man’s character one must judge it by the standards of his time, not ours.
Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens), American humorist, author and journalist (1835-1910)

No one ever became extremely wicked suddenly.
Juvenal, Roman satirist (c. 58-c. 127 A.D.)

Since the things we do determine the character of life, no blessed person can become unhappy. For he will never do those things which are hateful and petty.
Aristotle, Greek philosopher (384-322 B.C.)

Happiness is not the end of life: character is.
Henry Ward Beecher, American preacher (1813-1887)

Weakness of attitude becomes weakness of character.
Albert Einstein, Swiss mathematician, physicist and public philosopher (1879-1955)

Watch your thoughts, for they become words. Watch your words, for they become actions. Watch your actions, for they become habits. Watch your habits, for they become character. Watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.
Unknown

Thoughts lead on to purposes; purposes go forth in action; actions form habits; habits decide character; and character fixes our destiny.
Unknown

[Because power corrupts] Society’s demands for moral authority and character increase as the importance of the position increases.
John Adams, American Founding Father and second U.S. president (1735-1826)

Character is the only secure foundation of the state.
Calvin Coolidge, 30th American president (1872-1933)

With all the power that a president has, the most important thing to bear in mind is this: You must not give power to a man unless, above everything else, he has character. Character is the most important qualification the president of the United States can have.
Richard Nixon, 37th U.S. president (1913-1994), from TV ad for Barry Goldwaters presidential campaign in 1964

All leaders must face some crisis where their own strength of character is the enemy.
Richard Reeves, 20th-century American journalist and essayist

In a president, character is everything. A president doesn't have to be brilliant... He doesn't have to be clever; you can hire clever... You can hire pragmatic, and you can buy and bring in policy wonks. But you cant buy courage and decency, you cant rent a strong moral sense. A president must bring those things with him. He needs to have, in that much maligned word, but a good one nonetheless, a vision of the future he wishes to create.. But a vision is worth little if a president doesn't have the character – the courage and heart – to see it through.
Peggy Noonan, 20th century American author, speech writer for U.S. President Ronald Reagan

Faced with crisis, the man of character falls back upon himself.
Charles DeGaulle, French general and president, founder of the Fifth Republic (1890-1970)

Politics ruins the character.
Otto von Bismarck, German chancellor, founder of the German nation state (1815-1898)

Character is power.
Booker T. Washington, American educator (1856-1915)

Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a mans character, give him power.
Abraham Lincoln, 16th American president (1809-1865)

Every person in America has done or said something that would keep him or her from being president. Maybe a nation that consumes as much booze and dope as we do and has our kind of divorce statistics should pipe down about character issues.
P.J. ORouke, 20th-century American humorist and essayist

Political interest [can] never be separated in the long run from moral right.
Thomas Jefferson, American Founding Father and U.S. president (1743-1826), letter to James Monroe, 1806

The beauty of the soul shines out when a man bears with composure one heavy mischance after another, not because he does not feel them, but because he is a man of high and heroic temper.
Aristotle, Greek philosopher (384-322 B.C.)

Weakness of attitude becomes weakness of character.
Albert Einstein, Swiss-American mathematician, physicist and public philosopher (1879-1955)

Simplicity of character is no hindrance to the subtlety of intellect.
John Morley, British statesman and writer (1838-1923)

If it is a cliché to say athletics build character as well as muscle, then I subscribe to the cliché.
Gerald Ford, 38th President

Love never fails, character never quits, and dreams do come true.
Pete Maravich, basketball player

To finish the moment, to find the journey’s end in every step of the road, to live the greatest number of good hours, is wisdom.
Ralph Waldo Emerson, American essayist, public philosopher and poet (1803-1882)

Think like a man of action, act like a man of thought.
Henri Bergson, French philosopher (1859-1941)

When you are content to be simply yourself and don’t compare or compete, everybody will respect you.
Lao-Tzu, Chinese philosopher (fl. 6th century B.C., possibly apocryphal)

We can really respect a man only if he doesn’t always look out for himself.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, German playwright, poet, novelist (1749-1832)

All bullies are cowards, and most cowards are bullies.
Proverb

Human kindness has never weakened the stamina or softened the fiber of a free people. A nation does not have to be cruel to be tough.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 32nd American President (1882-1945)

You must teach your children that the ground beneath their feet is the ashes of your grandfathers. So that they will respect the land, tell your children that the earth is rich with the lives of our kin. Teach your children what we have taught our children, that the earth is our mother. Whatever befalls the earth befalls the sons of the earth. If men spit upon the ground, they spit upon themselves.
Chief Seattle (1784-1866) of the Duwamish, Suquamish, and allied Native American tribes, in an 1854 letter to President Franklin Pierce

The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.
Mohandas Gandhi, Indian nonviolent civil rights leader (1869-1948)

If you tell the truth, you don't have to remember anything.
Mark Twain, American writer (1835-1910)

The reputation of a thousand years may be determined by the conduct of one hour.
Japanese Proverb

A good reputation is something you must pay for, but you can never buy.
African proverb

Examine what is said, not the person who speaks.
Native American proverb

We learn by watching and listening.
Japanese proverb

One minute of patience can result in ten years of peace.
Italian proverb

Decide on what you think is right, and stick to it.
George Eliot (Mary Anne Evans), English novelist and journalist (1819-1880)

Good habits result from resisting temptation.
Portuguese proverb

If you decide to eat a toad, you should at least select one that is big.
Igbo proverb

I learn by going where I have to go.
Theodore Roethke, poet (1908-1963)

Life is not a continuum of pleasant choices, but of inevitable problems that call for strength, determination, and hard work.
Indian proverb

A leader is judged not by the length of his reign but by the decisions he makes.
Klingon Proverb

The last, if not the greatest, of the human freedoms: to choose their own attitude in any given circumstance.
Bruno Bettelheim, Austrian-born American psychologist and writer (1903-1990)

Life is like a game of cards. The hand that is dealt you represents determinism; the way you play it is free will.
Jawaharlal Nehru, Indian prime minister (1889-1964)

Rules of society are nothing; one's conscience is the umpire.
Marie Anne de Vichy-Chamrond, French hostess and patron of the arts (1697-1780)

Don't try to be different. Just be good. To be good is different enough.
Arthur Freed, American lyricist and film producer (1894-1973)

Laws control the lesser person. Right conduct controls the greater one.
Chinese proverb

Failure is the mother of success.
Chinese proverb

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.
Martin Luther King Jr., American civil rights leader (1929-1968)

You are responsible for you.
English proverb

Love all, trust a few, do wrong to none.
William Shakespeare, English poet and playwright (1564-1616)

Wise people care not for that which they cannot have.
Italian proverb

True strength lies in gentleness.
Irish proverb

To know what is right and not do it is the worst cowardice.
Confucius (K'ung Fu-tzu), Chinese sage (551-479 B.C.)

If you damage the character of another person, you damage your own.
Yoruba proverb

Nothing shows a man's character more than what he laughs at.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, German playwright, poet, novelist (1749-1832)

Fortune lost, nothing lost; courage lost, much lost; honor lost, more lost; soul lost, all lost.
Dutch proverb

The way to overcome the angry man is with gentleness, the evil man with goodness, the miser with generosity and the liar with truth.
Indian proverb

When wealth is lost, nothing is lost. When health is lost, something is lost; when character is lost, all is lost.
German proverb

A slave shows his true character, not while he is enslaved, but when he becomes a master.
Jewish proverb

A person's first care should be to avoid the reproaches of her own heart, her next to escape the censures of the world.
English proverb

If there is beauty in character, there will be harmony in the home. If there is harmony in the home, there will be order in the nation. If there is order in the nation, there will be peace in the world.
Chinese proverb

The greatest cunning is to have none at all.
French proverb

All that we are is the result of what we have thought. If people speak or act with evil thoughts, pain follows them. If people speak or act with pure thoughts, happiness follows them, like a shadow that never leaves them.
Siddhartha Gautama, spiritual teacher and founder of Buddhism (c. 563 – 483 BCE)